Sunday, July 20, 2014
With the weather curtailing Premier League racing at the Oak Tree Arena Tree Arena since Glasgow Tigers were defeated 62-30 on June 20, you would be forgiven for thinking the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels may be a little ring rusty, but nothing could be further from the truth, writes Dave Thompson.
Back to full strength after the return of Pontus Aspgren, who has been out since injuring his hand on June 15, ironically against tonight’s opponents, the Newcastle Diamonds, in the Rebels 54-38 defeat at Brough Park, the home side took a couple of races to get back in the groove. However, once back on the pace, the Rebels outclassed the Newcastle septet in a meeting that produced some terrifically entertaining racing that belied the final score line. Newcastle tracked new signing Simon Nielsen, who replaced the recently retired Chris Schramm.
When the tapes rose on the first race, it was Lewis Rose who showed first, after a ‘flying’ start, with the Rebels pair of Nick Morris and Charles Wright next away. Morris immediately took the wide line and powered to the front around the opening curves. Meanwhile the slow starting Danny King shot passed Wright and Rose, setting off in pursuit of Morris. Wright took his chance to move into third as they negotiated the last two turns of the lap, leaving Rose struggling in his wake. Rose made it to the third lap before he retired, as the Rebels took the first heat, despite a spirited chase from Danny King.
With his family visiting from Australia, Todd Kurtz was a little eager to make a good start, but his reactions were just too quick, and he destroyed the tapes, and was then forced to start from the 15-metre handicap mark. In the re-start Paul Starke and Simon Nielsen broke together, but it was the Dane who took the advantage as they rounded the first two turns. Kurtz was quickly into his stride, and was soon on the wheel of Chris Mills, before making a superb inside pass on the former Rebel on the third turn of Lap 2.
The race settled into what was looking like a shared heat, until Starke shed a chain with just half a lap to go, handing the visitors an unexpected heat advantage, and levelling the scores.
Stuart Robson has made a few guest appearances of late for the Rebels, so he would know better than most the merits of the home septet, and the value of making a good start against them, and that is exactly what he tried to do in Heat 3.
However, he was a bit previous in dropping the clutch, and blazed through the tapes. As a result he was replaced by Simon Nielsen. The re-run saw Pontus Aspgren fly off the line to lead up from Nielsen and Brady Kurtz, with Aspgren clamping Nielsen to the kerb through the opener, allowing Kurtz to cruise to the front off the second turn. Once at the head of affairs the Rebels pair dominated the race, pulling away with every turn of their wheels, posting a maximum advantage, with Lewis Kerr finally taking the minor place.
Olly Allen made a blinding start to lead up Heat 4, with Paul Starke also making the gate, but as Allen opened up a lead, Starke was swamped by the Diamonds duo of Ludvig Lindgren and Chris Mills before they reached the end of the lap. Lindgren took up the chase on Allen, but from the start of the third lap, the Rebels skipper pulled well clear to take a comfortable win, and share the points.
A second shared heat followed, as the Diamonds pair of Kerr and King broke on a 5-1. King headed out to the fence, charging to the front off the second turn. Brady Kurtz recovered from a slow start, and hotly pursued the visiting pair, catching a passing Lewis Kerr with a neat inside move of the last turn of the lap. Kerr wasn’t going to lie down and take it, forcing his way back into second as they ran down the home straight, but it was Kurtz who finally prevailed, with another smart inside move on the opening turn of Lap 2. Pontus Aspgren had been keeping a watching brief behind the battling pair, and on the second lap, he laid down a powerful run, and charged into third place, after catching Kerr at the start of the third lap, completing the move as they exited the second turn.
After a few weeks of relative inactivity for the home side, the Diamonds were making a good fist of keeping the Rebels on the leash. However, as they have proved many times in the past, Somerset are at their most dangerous when the going is tough, so it was no surprise to the watching Rebels fans, when after taking a few heats to get back into the swing of things, their team suddenly took the meeting by the scruff of the neck, hammering in four unanswered heats on the trot.
The start of that run came in Heat 6, but not before Nick Morris had seemingly blown his chances by jumping the start straight into the tapes, and having to start off 15 metres. From the off of the re-start, Charles Wright took control with a flashing start, whilst behind him, Morris was rapidly closing the gap on his opposing duo of Lindgren and Nielsen. As they exited the second turn, Morris flew past Nielsen on the wide outside, and quickly set about Lindgren. The Rebels number one was on a real charge, and was flying at tremendous speed around the opening lap, and by the first bend on the second lap he had caught Lindgren, and as they approached the next bend he made a superb cutback and, roared on by the crowd, shot through the inside of the turn to complete his run into second place in less than a lap and a half. Lindgren hit back at the start of the next lap, but Morris easily held him, before pulling away to take second to Wright’s win.
Lewis Kerr appeared to move at the start, but the only person he disadvantaged was himself, as just as the tapes rose as he came to a halt. Olly Allen made a superb gate to lead up, from Todd Kurtz and Stuart Robson. As Allen made the best of his way home, the second place spot was being contested in an extremely hard fought battle between Kurtz and Robson. The pair were all over each other, literally! Racing only inches apart, they appeared to be banging elbows, handlebars and almost everything else in their fight for supremacy. It was a fantastic battle that lasted for the opening two laps, until Kurtz just got the better of the tough and gritty Robson. Once free of the Diamonds skipper, Kurtz took control of second spot, and cruised home behind his captain to take a second successive maximum advantage for the home side.
Paul Starke was excluded from Heat 8, as he missed the 2-minute time allowance, bringing Todd Kurtz quickly back into the fray. Kurtz took full advantage of the rapid return to the track, with a rocket start, leading up from Lewis Rose and Chris Mills. Rose soon had Kurtz in his sights, and made a hard inside pass off bend two to grab the lead. Meanwhile Charles Wright, who had been slowly away from the tapes, ran down Mills, storming past him on the outside of the third bend. Almost immediately Kerr fell on the fourth turn, bringing the race to a halt.
In the restart the Rebels duo were beaten to the drop by Mills, but Kurtz was by before the first turn, and Wright made a nice inside pass on the third turn to join Kurtz at the front before the lap was done. From there on it was comfortable for the home pair, and they ran out maximum winners with some ease.
Pontus Aspgren made a superb start to lead up Heat 9, with Ludvig Lindgren and Brady Kurtz contesting second place. Kurtz moved into second place down the back straight, but Lindgren was right on his wheel, and Simon Nielsen was charging hard around the outside. Down the home straight Nielsen moved to the outside of Kurtz, with Lindgren challenging hard up the inside. As they entered the first turn for the second time, Lindgren came in hot, and hit Kurtz pushing him out, and causing him to fall. As he fell, his machine clipped Nielsen’s bike, bringing him down too. Nielsen was trapped between both machines, and from his loud and very audible yells, it was clear that he was in trouble. Kurtz was quickly by his side, dragging the bikes of him. After being attended by the medical team he was eventually taken back to the pits by ambulance, with suspected burns to his legs, and withdrew from the meeting. Thankfully it was confirmed later that he had not suffered any burning, and was just very sore, but should be fit to ride in the Diamonds next home meeting on Sunday.
Lindgren was excluded from the re-start, and Chris Mills took Nielsen’s place, but had no answer to the fast starting Rebels duo, who went on to complete bloodless maximum victory, giving the Rebels a 20-pont lead in the process. Despite being in tactical territory for the last two heats, George English resisted the temptation of sending out one of his team in the ‘Black and White’, choosing to wait for a better opportunity.
Heat 10 arrived and the Diamonds still waited on the tactical, and as the tapes rose it appeared to be a wise decision, with Charles Wright leading from the off, and Nick Morris coming through from third place early on, to take second spot from Lewis Kerr. Stuart Robson had been last away, and he too was soon passing his team mate, and taking up the chase on Morris and Wright. The trio battled it out over the opening lap, with Morris taking up the running from Wright. Robson moved into second place down the home straight on lap 2, and pressed Morris hard into the opening turns of the lap. Morris held him off, and with Kerr dropped at the rear, the race settled with Morris at the front, being pushed by Robson all the way, and Wright taking the minor place.
Now 22-points behind the Diamonds finally took the chance to run a tactical ride in Heat 11, sending out Danny King in the ‘Black and White’. Olly Allen made a superb start, coming over King into the first turn, and clamping him hard to the kerb. Lewis Rose got the better of the early exchanges with Todd Kurtz, but the Rebels man was pressuring him all the way. As Allen pulled out a lead he was never to lose, Lewis Rose had Kurtz all over his back wheel, and was under pressure all the way. In the end he rode a superb race to hold the Cowra man at bay. The resulting finishing positions gave the Diamonds a 3-5 advantage to cut their deficit to 20-points.
Another tactical, followed in Heat 12, with Stuart Robson the wearer of the ‘Magic Hat’. Robson looked to be making the tactical ride work, as he was first to show at the start, but it was a short lived respite, as Brady Kurtz charged to the front on the run to the turn. Robson got back on terms as they ran into the second lap, but Kurtz had his measure and pulled away to win easily. Paul Starke was slowly away, but was soon on all over Chris Mills. He probed away for three laps, before conjuring up a huge run on the final lap, coming with stunning charge off the final turn to just get up on the line, and ensuring the points were share
Heat 13 saw Danny King fly off the tapes to lead up, only to see Nick Morris charge up his inside to head the race off the first turn. King was in no mood to give it up, and fought back to retake the lead, only for Morris to do the same to him. The pair slugged it out over the first two laps, until King finally made the decisive move at the end of lap 2 to seal the win, but not before Morris had made a superb cut back to challenge again at the start of lap 3, but to no avail. Olly Allen took the minor place to share the points.
The Rebels had one final flourish in Heat 14, as they added a sixth 5-1 to their maximum tally on the night. Todd Kurtz shot off the tapes to easily lead up from the Diamonds duo of Lewis Kerr and Chris Mills. Pontus Aspgren made a slow start, but was soon at full pace, coming with a wet sail around the widest of lines to completely sweep away Kerr and Mills before they hit the back straight. He was soon at the head of the field, and he and Kurtz went on to take as easy a 5-1 as you are likely to see. Chris Mills slowed on Lap 4 and retired before he reached the flag.
The nominated heat saw Brady Kurtz and Nick Morris contest the race for the Rebels, whilst Newcastle called on their top two scorers, Danny King and Stuart Robson as their nominees. Danny King made the gate, but was closely pressed by Nick Morris on the outside, and Brady Kurtz on his inner. Whilst King rode a superb line to see off Morris, Kurtz had taken up the running on the inside. King moved further wide, before cutting back to take Kurtz as they moved onto the back straight, after riding a stunning opening bend. Once in front King quickly put distance between himself and his pursuers, and eventually won untroubled, to share the final heat.
In the final analysis the Rebels had done a job on Newcastle, starting slowly after a few weeks off track as a team, once they got into gear again they dominated proceedings, to eventually run out 59-35 winners. Once again, despite the one-sided look to the score line, the Oak Tree Arena circuit had produced some superb racing from both sides, and given the watching crowd a very entertaining meeting in the process.
For the Diamonds Danny King had been outstanding, returning a 15-point haul, including a tactical, from his five rides. He was supported by Stuart Robson, who got better after a shaky start, posting 7-ponts in the final tally. Unfortunately for the Diamonds, the pair lacked the support that may have seen them run the Rebels a lot closer on the night.
The home side score chart was topped by Nick Morris, with a superb 12+1 return, and he was ably supported by Brady Kurtz (11+2), Olly Allen (10+1), and the rest of the Rebels septet. Pontus Aspgren made a pleasing return from injury, with a useful 9+2 contribution to the cause.
As always the post meeting interviews in the club house proved well received, especially tonight’s ‘Rider of the Night award to Brady Kurtz. It was not just the award that was keenly watched, but the pre award interview with the person responsible for choosing the recipient had the audience in stitches. George Ward, father of Darcy was the person who chose Brady for the award, and his interview with MC Pete Chamberlain had the room roaring in laughter, especially when he ended up interviewing Pete rather than the other way round. All in all, along with interviews with Steve Kurtz, father of Todd and Brady, and the boys themselves, it was a very entertaining finish to the evening, and one that was enjoyed by all watching.
Despite their recent inactivity the Rebels still sit in the Playoff places, in fourth. They are only 4-points behind second spot Ipswich, with 7 matches in hand and 19-points behind runaway leaders Edinburgh, with 4 matches in hand.
The Rebels were due to visit Workington tonight (Saturday), but once again the weather look set to intervene, with prolonged heavy rain forecast for later in the day. The ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels next action will now be away to Ipswich on Thursday, a meeting that will signal the start of a run of 7 meetings in 11 days for the Rebels, ending in the Premier League 4’s at Peterborough on August 3rd.
As part of that run, the Oak Tree Arena will see two meetings in one week, with Sheffield visiting on July 29, and Ipswich on August 1.
To ease the burden the Somerset promotion are offering a discounted advanced ticket scheme, which will see both matches costing £25 for adults, and £22 for concessions if bought in advance, with the normal child and ‘Young Adult’ summer scheme still applying (up to 16 year-old free with a paying adult, and £4 for 17 and 18 year-olds). Details of the Discounted Advance Ticket Scheme, and how to apply, are available on the Rebels website, www.somersetrebels.co
Somerset Rebels - 59
1. Nick Morris - 3, 2*, 3, 2, 2 = 12+1
2. Charles Wright - 1, 3, 2*, 1 = 7+1
3. Brady Kurtz - 3, 2, 2*, 3, 1* = 11+1
4. Pontus Aspgren - 2*, 1*, 3, 3 = 9+2
5. Olly Allen - 3, 3, 3, 1*, = 10+1
6. Todd Kurtz - 2, 2*, 3, 0, 2* = 9+2
7. Paul Starke - R, 0, M, 1 = 1
Newcastle Diamonds - 35
1. Danny King - 2, 3, 4^, 3, 3 = 15
2. Lewis Rose - R, 0, Flx, 1* = 1+1
3. Stuart Robson - T, 1, 2, 4^ = 7
4. Lewis Kerr - 1, 0, 0, 1 = 2
5. Ludvig Lindgren - 2, 1, Exl, 0, 0 = 3
6. Simon Nielsen - 3, 0, 0, Fl = 3 (Withdrawn)
7. Chris Mills - 1, 1*, 1, 1, 0, R = 4+1
Referee: Ronnie Allan
Heat 01: Morris, King, Wright, Rose - Retired (4-2) (4-2) 58.00
Heat 02: (Re-run) Nielsen, Todd Kurtz, Mills, Starke (Ret) (3-3) (6-6) 59.31
Heat 03: (Re-run) Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Ker, Nielsen (For Robson - Tapes) (5-1) (11-7) 57.34
Heat 04: Allen, Lindgren, Mills, Starke (3-3) (14-10) 58.25
Heat 05: King, Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Rose (3-3) (17-13) 57.15
Heat 06: Wright, Morris, Lindgren, Nielsen (5-1) (22-14) 58.62
Heat 07: Allen, Todd Kurtz, Robson, Kerr (5-1) (27-15) 58.62
Heat 08: Todd Kurtz (For Starke - 2 Minutes), Wright, Mills, Rose (Flx) (5-1) (32-16) 59.44
Heat 09: Aspgren, Brady Kurtz, Mills (For Nielsen – Fell/W’drawn), Lindgren (Exl) (5-1) (37-17) 58.25
Heat 10: Morris, Robson, Wright, Kerr (4-2) (41-19) 58.81
Heat 11: Allen, King - Tactical Ride, Rose, Todd Kurtz (3-5) (44-24) 58.38
Heat 12: Brady Kurtz, Robson - Tactical Ride, Starke, Mills (4-4) (48-28) 59.22
Heat 13: King, Morris, Allen, Lindgren (3-3) (51-31) 58.31
Heat 14: Aspgren, Todd Kurtz, Kerr, Mills (Ret) (5-1) (56-32) 58.97
Heat 15: King, Morris, Brady Kurtz, Robson (3-3) (59-35) 58.81